September 23, 2019


Researchers say that measuring how quickly a person’s pupil dilates while they are taking cognitive tests may be a low-cost, low-invasive method to aid in screening individuals at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease before cognitive decline begins. The new study focuses on pupillary responses which are driven by the locus coeruleus, a cluster of neurons in the brainstem involved in regulating arousal and also modulating cognitive function. The tangles of protein called tau are the earliest occurring known biomarker for Alzheimer's, and these first appear in the locus coeruleus.
Rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep is a fascinating period when most of our dreams are made. Now, in a study of mice, a team of Japanese and U.S. researchers show that REM sleep may also be a time when the brain actively forgets. Their results suggest that forgetting during sleep may be controlled by neurons found deep inside the brain that were previously known for making an appetite stimulating hormone. These findings indicate that the firing of a particular group of neurons during REM sleep controls whether the brain remembers new information after a good night’s sleep.
The benefits of music for human health and well-being have long been recognized, but biomedical science still has a quite limited understanding of music’s mechanisms of action in the brain, as well as its potential to ease symptoms of an array of disorders including Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In a major step toward using rigorous science to realize music’s potential for improving human health, NIH has just awarded $20 million over five years to support the first research projects of the Sound Health initiative.
It was somewhat surprising when a paper in P.N.A.S. reported in July that what happens in the brains of female study subjects when they look at sexual imagery is pretty much the same as what happens in the brains of their male counterparts. But if men’s and women’s brains respond similarly to sexual stimuli, what accounts for the apparent differences in how they approach sexual practices? Answering this means connecting the dots between the firing of specific neurons, the myriad thoughts we have about sex, and the actions we take in response to them.
Studies over the past 20 years have found a correlation between the number of adverse childhood events, such as death or divorce, and worse health outcomes later in life. However, a new study discovered that positive childhood experiences—like having good neighbors, regular meals, or a caregiver you feel safe with—have the potential to negate harmful health effects caused by adverse childhood experiences.
A recent study of two professional foot painters found that using their feet like hands can cause organised "hand-like" maps of the toes in the brain. In other non-human primate species, those who regularly use their toes for dextrous tasks like climbing, both the toes and fingers are specifically represented in their brains. Here, researchers found that in people who use their toes similarly to how other people use their fingers, the toes were represented in their brains in a way never seen before in people.

Calendar of Events

Post-doctoral & Graduate Workshop
Speaker: Linda Macri (University of Maryland)
Title: "Writing Research Statements for Faculty Positions"
Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Time: 12 noon
Location: 2124 Lee Building
Cognitive Science Colloquium
Speaker: Anna Papafragou (University of Pennsylvania)
Title: "Events in Language and Cognition"
Date: Thursday, September 26, 2019
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: 1103 Bioscience Research Building
Developmental Science Workshop
Title: "Endless Possibilities: The Development of Possibility and Necessity in Cognition, Language, and Society"
Date: Friday, September 27, 2019
Time: 9:15 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Location: 2130 H.J. Patterson Building
NACS Seminar
Speaker: Florin Albeanu (Cold Spring Harbor)
Title: "Olfaction: from sensation to action and back"
Date: Friday, September 27, 2019
Time: 10:15 a.m.
Location: 1103 Bioscience Research Building

Funding Announcements

New FOA are listed below. Please visit for the complete list of open Funding Announcements.
NIH invites applications for Mobile Health: Technology and Outcomes in Low and Middle Income Countries (R21/R33 - Clinical Trial Optional) (PAR-19-376). The purpose of this FOA is to encourage exploratory/developmental research applications that propose to study the development, validation, feasibility, and effectiveness of innovative mobile health interventions or tools specifically suited for low- and middle-income countries that utilize new or emerging technology, platforms, systems, or analytics. Applications due November 19, 2019.
National Institute on Aging invites applications for Complex Integrated Multi-Component Projects in Aging Research (U19 Clinical Trial Optional) (PAR-19-374). This FOA allows for applications that propose large-scale, complex research projects with multiple highly integrated components focused on a common research question relevant to aging. Applications due January 25, 2020.
National Institute of Nursing Research invites applications for Omics-guided Biobehavioral Interventions for Improved Health Outcomes (R01 Clinical Trial Optional) (PAR-19-377). The purpose of this FOA is to stimulate clinical research that harnesses the wealth of advances in the fields of genomics and other omics (e.g., metabolomics, microbiomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics, etc.) to incorporate these advances into translatable, personalized biobehavioral interventions for improved health outcomes. Applications due February 5, 2020.
*New!* NIH invites applications for Research on biopsychosocial factors of social connectedness and isolation on health, wellbeing, illness, and recovery (R01 Clinical Trials Not Allowed) (PAR-19-373) for projects that seek to model the underlying mechanisms, processes, and trajectories of social relationships and how these factors affect outcomes in health, illness, recovery, and overall wellbeing. Both animal and human subjects research projects are welcome. Applications due March 17, 2020.
*New!* NIH invites applications for Research on biopsychosocial factors of social connectedness and isolation on health, wellbeing, illness, and recovery (R01 Basic Experimental Studies with Humans Required) (PAR-19-384) for studies that prospectively assign human participants to conditions (i.e., experimentally manipulate independent variables) and that assess biomedical and/or behavioral outcomes in humans to understand fundamental aspects of phenomena related to social connectedness and isolatedness. Applications due March 17, 2020.

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